Guilt

It’s not easy to put this all into words. I don’t really feel like I have a right to be upset about my miscarriages, especially after reading these stories. I’ve hesitated to tell my story for fear of judgement, especially since I already judge myself so harshly.

When I was 18, my boyfriend of almost a year and I found out I was pregnant. He was a senior in high school and I was in my freshman year in college. We knew we were in no way ready to be parents. He was already signed up to leave for the Marines after he graduated, and I wanted more out of my life than to be a teen mother. We talked it out for days, and decided that terminating the pregnancy was our option. So on the morning of October 2nd, 2001, I went with my mom, who stood by my side, and had it done. I was one of the worst days of my life, as well as one of the most painful, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I tried to act like everything was okay for a number of months, but eventually I blew up, and life spiraled after that. My boyfriend and I split up, I dropped out of college, and spent the next two years in an alcohol induced fog.

Two years after that choice, I found myself pregnant again. There was no way I was going to repeat the decision I had made previously, so it was time to grow up. The father of the baby wasn’t someone I was in a relationship with, nor was he someone who I thought could be responsible enough to be around, so I had every intention of being a single mom. My mother was excited, and after I told her she already started to buy little things. My father and step-mother were less than excited, and made it clear that they thought I should put the baby up for adoption. That wasn’t something I felt I could do though, after carrying it for 9 months, so I told them no. This was my choice.

I was at work the day after telling my father and step-mother, and I started bleeding and cramping. The doctor told me to go to the hospital, and after calling my step-mother, who was the only one I could get a hold of, she took me in since they didn’t want me driving. By the time we made it to the hospital for blood work, it was obvious that I was miscarrying. I didn’t really know what to feel. I was sad, but at the same time, a little relieved that I wasn’t going to be a mother yet. I don’t remember too much of that week. I remember the pain being intense and that’s about it.

After that, I basically lost myself again. I worked numerous jobs to fill my time, and when I wasn’t working I was drinking. Alcohol numbed everything, which was how I survived life. I had so much guilt about the abortion, could barely look at myself in the mirror, and felt like the miscarriage was my fault because I had terminated a pregnancy.

A few years later, I met the man who is my husband now. The night we met, I knew we were going to get married. When we found out we were pregnant, I was so scared that I wasn’t going to carry full term. He knew all about my past, and just kept telling me it would all be okay. I was high risk since I had miscarried as well as terminated a pregnancy. I went into labor the first time at 25 weeks, had to go on bed rest, and then delivered my son at 34 1/2 weeks. He spent time in the NICU because of his poor lungs, but eventually came home, and is now a decently healthy six year old. We have a good life, and I’m utterly in love with my son. He’s the best part of me. He is my whole world, and is the reason I do anything.

Two weeks before he turned six, I miscarried again. I didn’t even realize I was pregnant until it started happening. I had an irregular period, which was not normal as I’m consistent every month, but I thought maybe it was stress related. Ten days after that, I woke up in pain, cramps shooting through my abdomen, and after going to the bathroom, saw what was happening. I called my mom in a panic, called my husband, but by that afternoon, it was for sure a miscarriage. I was devastated this time. We weren’t intentionally trying for another baby, but we’ve been on the fence for a number of years about having another one. My husband took care of me through it, wiped my tears and helped keep me together so I didn’t break down completely. It’s been almost a year now since that, and I’m about 95% sure I don’t want to even try for another baby, for fear that I’d go through that again. We didn’t tell too many people, but now when I get asked the “When are you going to have another one?” question, just tell that I’ve miscarried twice so we’re hesitant to try again. It generally shuts them up. I hate that fucking question.

Everyone has a different story. Everyone makes different choices. After almost 14 years, I still have an immense amount of guilt, and feel like I don’t have the right to be upset about my miscarriages. I feel that everyone else’s story is more important than my own. How can I sit here and write about this choice I made, when it was something I had control of. I just don’t think I could have talked about my miscarriages without talking about my abortion. I sort of expected to feel like a weight was lifted once I got this all down and put it out there for the world to read, but I don’t feel any differently.

–Anonymous

Editor’s Note: Thank you for sharing your story, Anonymous. I truly hope you know that your words WILL help many of the readers of this website. You are not alone, guaranteed. Love and healing vibes to you.

On my due date

“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” Wendell Berry

Today was to have been my due date. “Was to have been”. The past future perfect. 20 weeks ago, Jared and I lost a baby, whom we had taken to calling “Baby Blue,” when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I woke up this morning thinking about this due date that was to have been, and I sat down to write, without a plan in mind. So here I am. Publishing these undrafted, unrefined thoughts.

I think today is a due date of sorts. I’m due to express the gratitude – out loud – for everything that has been just right in my life, for the kindness that has revealed to me that the underbelly of sadness is love, the kind of love that quietly simmers in past future perfects, the love that has allowed me to arrive at my due date and be able to say, “I am lucky” and really mean it. Wendell Berry writes, “Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery,” and dog gone it, he’s right.

So on the due date that was to have been, I choose to be grateful for:

1. My husband, Jared, the love and rock of my life. I did not fully comprehend nor appreciate the strength of this man, his patience, his kindness, or his love for me until we experienced this loss together. I know the strength of my marriage only because I have seen it bear weight. I turn to Wendell Berry again to articulate the felt sense that my marriage began in earnest five months ago. He writes, “It may be that when we no longer know what to do/we have come to our real work,/and that when we no longer know which way to go/we have come to our real journey./The mind that is not baffled is not employed./The impeded stream is the one that sings.” I am grateful for this singing stream.

2. The family (my beautiful sister cousins, especially) and friends who have made me laugh when I didn’t think I had a crumb of joy left in me. I am thankful also for all of the people who shared with me the joy of my pregnancy. You know who you are.

3. A resilient body.

4. Yoga. Every time I’m on that mat, I remember how lucky I am simply to be breathing. Every inhale gives me strength, and every exhale grace.

5. Baby Blue’s fetal cells. It’s a fact that fetal cells stay in their mom’s body for decades after conception, even if the baby is never delivered. Isn’t that a sweet thought? My beautiful friend Laura turned me on to this RadioLab. Listen to this: the current theory is that a baby’s fetal cells remain with his/her mother to help heal her when she’s sick. Babies biologically tend toward kindness.

6. The ability to feel happiness for others again.

7. The perspective, born out of distance, that life – with all its unknowns, its possibilities, and its moments of grief and grace – continues.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

― Mary Oliver

–Sarah Barrett Olson

Science-ish Friday: People Have Misconceptions About Miscarriage, And That Can Hurt

By Katherine Hobson
May 8, 2015

Courtesy of NPR

Most people think a miscarriage is rare, and many believe that if a woman loses a pregnancy that she brought it upon herself. Neither of those things is true, but the enduring beliefs cause great pain to women and their partners.

“I felt alone until I realized there is this big, secret miscarriage club — one that nobody wants to be a member of — and when I realized it existed, I felt angry that no one told me they had active membership.”

In fact, almost half of people who have experienced a miscarriage or whose partner has had one feel guilty, according to a survey to be published Monday in Obstetrics & Gynecology. More than a quarter of them felt shame. Many felt they’d lost a child.

When NPR asked visitors to its Facebook page to tell us what they wished people knew about miscarriage, the response was overwhelming — 200 emails and counting, many heartbreaking. Their sentiments often echoed what the survey found.

“I wish people knew how much it’s possible to miss a person you have never met, and to mark time by their absence,” wrote one woman. “I will always think about how old my baby would be now and what our lives would be like if I hadn’t lost the pregnancy.”

The survey came about after Dr. Zev Williams realized that many of his patients had misconceptions about miscarriage. “I’d tell them how common a miscarriage was, and they seemed shocked,” says Williams, an OB-GYN who directs the Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

In fact, between 15 percent and 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, defined as a pregnancy loss earlier than 20 weeks of gestation. (Pregnancy loss after that point is called a stillbirth.) Miscarriage is actually “by far the most common complication of pregnancy,” says Williams. He and his colleagues wanted to find out how widespread some of the mistaken beliefs about miscarriage are.

They asked 1,084 adults about miscarriage and its causes. They also asked the 15 percent of survey respondents who had suffered a miscarriage, or whose partner had, about their experience. The results echoed what he’d seen in his patients: Some 55 percent of all respondents believed that miscarriage occurred in 5 percent or less of all pregnancies.

The cultural silence around miscarriage contributes to those misunderstandings, Williams says. “A lot of other conditions that people used to speak of only in hushed tones, like cancer and AIDS, we speak about a lot more,” he says.

Not so for miscarriage. Because early pregnancy loss is so common, women are often advised not to share their pregnancy news with friends and family until the start of the second trimester. At that point the chance of miscarriage has drastically declined. But that secrecy means women who do miscarry in the first trimester may not get the support they need, Williams says.

“It’s bizarre that the topic is so taboo,” wrote one reader on Facebook. “I really feel an obligation now, having had a miscarriage, to mention my miscarriage when I’m talking about fertility or the process of conceiving or childbirth.” She added a sentiment that many other women expressed: “I felt alone until I realized there is this big, secret miscarriage club — one that nobody wants to be a member of — and when I realized it existed, I felt angry that no one told me they had active membership.”

Chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus cause 60 percent of miscarriages. A handful of other medical conditions are also known to cause miscarriage. Most survey respondents knew that genetic or medical problems were the most common cause of early pregnancy loss. But they also mistakenly believed that other factors could trigger a miscarriage: a stressful event (76 percent); lifting something heavy (64 percent); previous use of contraception like an IUD (28 percent) or birth control pills (22 percent); and even an argument (21 percent). Some 22 percent believed that lifestyle choices, like using drugs, tobacco or alcohol, were the single biggest cause of miscarriages. That’s not true.

Those who shared their experiences with NPR said many of those myths were repeated back to them by friends, family or colleagues after their own miscarriages. One said someone blamed her high heels. That kind of talk can be incredibly painful, even if you know you have the facts on your side.

“I wish people understood that miscarriages are the flip side of the coin,” wrote one woman. “If you’ve had a healthy pregnancy that went full term — you won a lottery. Short of obvious substance abuse and bull riding — your healthy baby is not the result of anything you did or didn’t do. As much as you want to think you are in control — you aren’t. And the same goes when I lost each pregnancy — as much as I wish I could have been — it was not in my control.”

The feelings of guilt, shame and enormous loss reported in the survey were a common theme among those who told their stories to NPR. “I felt, and feel, literally broken, and betrayed by my body,” wrote one woman. “It’s irrational, but there is such a deep shame attached to not being able to carry a baby to term…. I don’t want another baby, I want THIS baby, the one I thought I would have, the one I started planning for, hoping for, dreaming about, talking to. All that got taken away from me.”

Not everyone was so deeply affected; some said the miscarriage came as a relief, either because the pregnancy was unwanted, or because they’d known something wasn’t quite right. Or they said it was painful at the time, but that they’d moved on and weren’t particularly haunted by the loss. “You have every right to feel ALL of your emotions you have,” wrote one person. “Whether you feel grief or relief, your emotions are never wrong.”

But because the loss can be so great, people said they wished others would acknowledge a miscarriage without reverting to a laundry list of well-intentioned but hurtful lines: “Well, at least you know you can get pregnant.” (One reader said this was particularly upsetting after her seventh miscarriage.) “You can always try again.” “If you adopt, you’ll get pregnant.” “It happens for a reason.” “It’s God’s plan.” (That, wrote another reader, sounds an awful lot like “God doesn’t want you to be a parent.”)

Far better, people said, is to simply say, “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?”

Over and over again, we heard a wish that there was more private and public discussion of miscarriage. “Many women in my family had suffered one or more, and I had no idea until I had one myself,” wrote one woman. “I felt that no one I knew had gone through this.”

Several readers said this code of silence was even stronger for the partners of women who miscarry. One reader wrote that her husband “had hopes and dreams and fears and so much joy tied up into 9.5 weeks of cells,” but he didn’t get time off work, flowers or well-wishes from colleagues or visits from friends to “listen to him cry,” as she did. Instead, “He had to suffer alone.”

The new survey found that 46 percent of respondents who’d miscarried said they felt less alone when friends talked about their own miscarriages. Even a celebrity’s disclosure of miscarriage helped.

“I wish people knew how much it’s possible to miss a person you have never met, and to mark time by their absence.”

One person who recently suffered a miscarriage summed it up: “While I’m definitely still healing emotionally, I would be happy to talk more about it. So many people grieve silently, but I’ve found that talking really helps the most.”

That’s the kind of conversation that Williams says he and his co-authors would like to spark with their survey. “Miscarriage is ancient. It’s always been there.” And all too often, he says, “people often blame themselves and don’t discuss it.”

Losing Lea

Two lines = pregnant!

At age 42, it felt like a miracle to finally feel pregnant. Circumstances and my own thirst for adventure had always kept that miracle away from me. Now in the right place and with the right person, I felt so happy to see those two lines. Of course I didn’t want to get too excited.

Right from the start I felt it was a girl. We both wanted a boy we would call Leo, so I suggested Lea for this little princess that I thought would finally be mine.

I headed off to the local doctor just to check all was in order. She had a basic sonar machine and took a scan showing me a perfectly positioned foetal sac. I couldn’t see much other than a circle but I was just happy there was something to see. I knew I was pregnant when I went off my daily chocolate habit. The rising progesterone levels made me exhausted and a bit queasy but I kept that under control by eating something appropriate. Being quite thin and short, I was not surprised when I started to see a very small bump.

I booked in to see the gynae which would then be around 10 weeks. The week of the gynae appointment I realised that I had started eating chocolate again and did not feel as sick. I thought maybe something is wrong and I grew anxious to hear my baby’s heartbeat.

At our appointment the gynae asked me all the questions related to how I wanted to give birth, would I breastfeed, did we want to know the sex of the baby. I lay on the table and he placed the scanner over my uterus and there it was, an empty sac. Then he said, ‘I’m sorry, we see this often, it’s called a blighted ovum which means the baby has not developed.”

A blighted ovum – apparently happens to one in four women, some who don’t even realise before they have a slightly delayed period and then naturally abort. A blighted ovum is assumed to be the result of a chromosomal abnormality preventing the pregnancy from going to term. My eggs are older and probably not best quality so I write it off to a bad egg.

I had three choices – allow it to naturally abort, take pills to help the process along or book in for a D&C (dilation & cutterage). I decided on the D&C in the hope that I could at least control the process and not just experience it at an inconvenient time. I went home in tears, just accepting the reality of what had just come my way. A friend had said when I expressed my worries that, ‘you are pregnant, it doesn’t just go away’ – well, it does!
They always say you know when something is wrong and perhaps I should have sooner. When I searched the internet for 6 weeks scans, I could clearly see more in those scans than my own. The picture I had printed of that scan would just serve as a reminder of my loss.

Two days later, I bravely went in for the operation, just a morning out of my life. To do the procedure they must not be too aggressive so as not to cause any damage yet aggressive enough to remove what needs to be removed. The procedure takes around 15 minutes.

I go home, tired and dizzy but otherwise fine. I bleed lightly for five days, but then the cramps hit, my tolerance for painkillers increases, and half way through the night I rush to the toilet to feel blood rush out of me like water, with clots everywhere. The reality of what now feels like a miscarriage hits me as I sit there sobbing, my sympathetic husband not knowing what else to do but hold me. I stupidly went to work the next day even though I was fragile and teary. I should have taken that day to process the loss but I didn’t.

Two weeks later the bleeding has finally stopped and my body feels back to normal. I get back into a regular cycle quickly as if that was just a bad period. By now I have done more internet searching and found that sometimes women have been misdiagnosed due to a possible inverted uterus, but I don’t think that was my case.

A few weeks later I find myself sobbing while in the shower, trying to process my loss.

Even though I try to convince myself there was no child inside and thank heavens for modern scans so we can see what is happening inside, I still feel a loss of what at one point, however slight, was developing.

Three months later I’m walking through an art gallery and all I see is blighted ova represented by circles in the artworks.

I am not quite over my loss.

–Amy

Check out Amy’s blog at https://bonusmomlove.wordpress.com/

Science Friday: Chromosome errors cause many pregnancies to end before they are even detected

by Rajiv McCoy, PhD candidate in Biology at Stanford University and Dmitri Petrov, Professor of Biology and Associate Chair of the Biology Department at Stanford University

Given the fact that there are seven billion people on Earth, one might conclude that human beings are pretty good at reproducing. But fewer than 30% of all fertilization events result in successful pregnancy, even for young, fertile couples.

image-20150408-18080-1o0ax59
The pregnancy loss iceberg. Larsen et al. BMC Medicine 2013 11:154

The remaining 70% of conceptions result in pregnancy loss, with most of these losses occurring before the mother misses a menstrual period. This means that many pregnancies begin and end before the mother even notices. These early pregnancy losses are one reason why it generally takes several months for couples to achieve a successful pregnancy. But why is pregnancy loss so common?

Current evidence suggests that both the process of egg formation (this is called meiosis) in the mother’s ovaries and the initial embryonic cell divisions (called mitosis) just after fertilization are extremely error-prone, producing embryos with too many or too few chromosomes.
What happens after fertilization?

During fertilization, the sperm and egg fuse so that the resulting embryo will have 23 chromosomes inherited from the father and 23 chromosomes inherited from the mother. If all goes well, the subsequent cell divisions in the embryo (called mitotic divisions) simply replicate this 46-chromosome set as new cells are formed.

Chromosomes contain genes, the blueprints for human development. When processes go awry in meiosis or mitosis, chromosomes can go into the wrong cell or get lost completely, drastically altering this blueprint. The resulting cell will not possess the standard 46-chromosome set – an imbalance that is the defining feature of aneuploidy. This means that many genes will either be missing or present in extra copies, placing cells under stress.

Embryos with many aneuploid cells rarely survive. Trisomy 21, the genetic cause of Down syndrome, is one of the rare forms of aneuploidy in which the baby can survive to live birth. The vast majority of embryos affected with other aneuploidies perish in early development.
What causes aneuploidy?

Aneuploidy is associated with maternal age. Female meiotic errors (these are errors in the eggs themselves) increase from a frequency of less than 20% in mothers younger than 30 years old to greater than 60% in mothers older than 45. Errors in sperm, called paternal meiotic errors, are comparatively rare, affecting fewer than 5% of sperm cells.

But age isn’t the only factor influencing aneuploidy. Our recent work in collaboration with the genetic testing company Natera, published in Science, suggests that risk is also influenced by a common genetic variant in the mother’s genome.

Even when the egg and sperm are normal, aneuploidies often arise after fertilization, during the first three embryonic cell divisions. These initial cell divisions of the embryo are controlled by maternal machinery pre-loaded into the egg.

Unlike meiotic errors in the egg, mitotic errors do not increase with age, but affect all age groups.
A maternal genetic variant influences aneuploidy risk

Using data from in vitro fertilized (IVF) embryos screened by our collaborators at Natera, we found that mothers with a particular genetic variant on chromosome 4 tend to produce embryos with more mitotic aneuploidies – the aneuploidies that arise during post-fertilization cell division.

This effect was observed for mothers of all ages and from diverse ethnic backgrounds. This genetic variant is surprisingly common; approximately half of all people carry at least one copy of this risk variant.

The most likely suspect is a gene called Polo-like kinase 4 (PLK4), which is known to be a master regulator of the centrosome cycle. The centrosome is molecular machine that is responsible for proper cell division and distribution of chromosomes.

We estimated that each copy of the risk variant increases the rate of aneuploidy by about 3%, regardless of the mother’s age. Having two copies doubles this risk. This increased risk could be especially important for older mothers who are already more prone to aneuploidy. It is likely that there are other genetic variants that contribute to aneuploidy risk to a lesser degree, and further work will be required to determine if this is the case.

Because of the established link between aneuploidy and pregnancy loss, we hypothesized that the aneuploidy risk variant might also affect embryo survival. We found that mothers with the high-risk genotypes had fewer embryos available for testing, suggesting that their embryos are less likely to survive very early developmental stages due to aneuploidy.

Given these results, it seems like this genetic variant could influence the average time it takes to achieve successful pregnancy, an idea that we are hoping to investigate further.
A signature of natural selection: comparison to the Neanderthals

Normally, natural selection weeds out damaging variation, reducing it to very low frequency. But the aneuploidy risk variant is very common. Hoping to learn more about the evolutionary history of this variant, we compared human genomes to Neanderthals and Denisovans, our ancient hominin relatives.

Comparison of a modern human skull and Neanderthal skull in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. hairymuseummatt (original photo), DrMikeBaxter (derivative work) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Despite the fact that the harmful genetic variant is relatively common in humans, it was absent in these close relatives, meaning that it likely rose rapidly in frequency in an ancestral population of humans. If this is true, it means that this version of this gene was actually somehow beneficial (and maybe still is) while simultaneously being harmful in the context of early development.

So what could possibly have been the benefit?

We aren’t sure at this point, but we speculate that for ancient humans, there might have been a benefit to having a reduced probability of successful pregnancy per intercourse. Maybe the benefit had to do with infanticide – men may be less likely to kill a baby if there is a chance it is their child, and not that of a rival. Likewise, lower probability of pregnancy per intercourse might encourage repeated mating with the same female, fostering pair bonding and paternal investment. This hypothesis was first proposed by Alexander and Noonan in 1979 to help explain the human-specific trait of concealed ovulation and continuous sexual receptivity – women do not externally signal or limit intercourse to the fertile portion of their cycles as do some other primates.

Another idea is based on the fact that PLK4 is often mutated in human cancers. Could there be a beneficial effect of the risk variant in the context of cancer? PLK4 plays yet another role in testes development. Could the aneuploidy risk variant have a beneficial effect in this context?

We are hoping that additional data and future research can shed more light on this signal of human-specific adaptation. Is it real or simply an artifact of chance events in human evolution? Did our ancestors have lower rates of aneuploidy? What about Neanderthals, Denisovans, and living non-human primates? And perhaps the most basic question: why is human aneuploidy so common? Armed with modern genomic technologies, we can continue to chip away at these questions to understand not only the medical aspects of aneuploidy risk, but also the broader evolutionary basis of this intriguing trait.

Ceremony

I was already seeing a counselor when it came up that I had had a miscarriage the previous month. I was ready to breeze through it when I told her, since I had only been six weeks along when it happened. She surprised me with a look of profound sympathy. She almost seemed like she was going to cry. It took me aback because I wasn’t expecting that reaction.

Miscarriage

“How do you feel about the miscarriage?” my counselor asked me. She wasn’t going to let me glide over that one.

I was quiet for a few moments. “I don’t know,” I said. “I feel relieved, I guess.” I had felt relief because my husband and I had a foreign exchange student living at our house, my health was poor, and our finances weren’t in the best shape for a baby. Plus we lived far from family, and I knew I would need support to take care of an infant because of my health difficulties.

But under that relief were two other things that I didn’t quite detect yet – disappointment and guilt.

The guilt was pretty easy to figure out. I wasn’t ready for the pregnancy yet, so I blamed that little nagging thought for making the miscarriage happen. I was sure that me worrying somehow sent the message to the baby that it was not welcome, and I felt extreme levels of guilt about this.

I was also disappointed, which I found out much later. My counselor would always ask me about the miscarriage, which each time I had not really thought about. If I was ever in denial about something, this was it.

Eventually, she suggested that I have a ceremony to commemorate the passing of the baby, early as it was. My first thought was, “I’m never doing something that ridiculous. I don’t need to.” But as time went on and other issues became more clear in my heart, I realized that it would be helpful.

Ultimately, I had learned to let go of the guilt and acknowledge that the disappointment in my heart was tied to love. This was a child, whether it was at six weeks, days, or months. And as it was mine, I loved it. So the ceremony was what ultimately would help me to move past my miscarriage by honoring what had happened.

The Ceremony

To read the rest of Aly’s post, please continue on to her blog, Views from the Quiet Life

Thank you so much for your story Aly ❤

Ceremony

How I Turned My Miscarriage Into Something Good

My first baby came so easily to me, like I assumed most babies came for most women. When I was losing it, the word miscarriage loomed over my head like a dirty curse. That couldn’t be happening to me — I was healthy and young. No one in my family had ever had a miscarriage.

When the baby was good and lost, the doctors kept saying the word over and over again. Miscarriage. Miscarriage. Is this your first miscarriage? Have you ever had a miscarriage? Don’t worry, it’s just an early miscarriage. Each time they hurled that word at me, it felt like an accusation, a sentence. The needles they were sticking in me hurt much less than that word that punctured me over and over again.

After my D&C, I didn’t hear that word anymore. No one wanted to say that dirty word to me. I got many looks of sympathy and quickly administered hugs, and my mother-in-law brought me flowers. No one said it outright, but the message was clear — it was time to suck it up and put “this business” behind us.

The problem, if we want to call it that, is that I’m not a shut-up-and-suffer kind of person. When someone asked me why I wasn’t feeling well, I told them I’d lost our first child. When an old friend asked me about the pregnancy that I’d announced so early, I told her it ended in miscarriage. And the most amazing thing happened — the world didn’t end.

No one exploded into apoplectic shock and melted at my feet. Some people looked away and assumed an awkward look. Not everyone was ready to deal with such a difficult topic. The conversations with those people were over quickly and politely. What did happen was a bit of a shock to me at first, and it didn’t take long for it to become the norm.

When I would share my story of loss, other people would start to share theirs. They’d give me a shy look, like they were giving away this big secret, and tell me that they, too, had lost their first baby. Or maybe their sister had lost their niece. Sometimes it was a partner who was suffering from a miscarriage right now, and they didn’t know how they should act. Almost everyone had their own story of losing a baby, and they looked over their shoulder to make sure no one was listening before they told it. The feeling of shame was clear and pronounced.

What’s the common tie between these people? Almost all of them seemed relieved to talk about it. They gave the impression of releasing a burden, and we usually related to each other in an honest and understanding way. The woman whose friend had miscarried asked for advice on how to comfort her. She wanted to be there for her friend, but didn’t know how, and talking to me helped her figure out what to say. The man whose girlfriend had lost a baby didn’t realize how common miscarriage was. He’d wondered if she’d done something to cause it, and after our conversation he realized that likely wasn’t the case. You’d be surprised by how many people think the mother is responsible for her lost pregnancy.

These people were so afraid of broaching the terrifying monster of miscarriage that they were ignoring it completely. It was only by being brave enough to talk about it openly that they broadened their understanding and took that monster down a size.

Talking about loss is how I turned my miscarriage into something positive. It’s how I choose to honor my first child. I can only hope that more men and women start to share their stories, and start changing the conversation about pregnancy loss.

These days, I talk about my miscarriage. It doesn’t always have to be a big downer in a conversation, but I’m honest and frank about my experiences. My friends and family know that I’m someone they can talk to if they lose a baby or know someone who does. Because of my willingness to start these conversations, pregnancy loss is no longer a taboo in my circle.

Imagine what it would be like if that circle widened. If other people started their own circles of sharing and understanding. If women knew that they didn’t have to feel ashamed when they had a miscarriage. Imagine if those circles converged, and we started building a society where a woman could openly grieve for her lost child instead of hiding in embarrassment.

Ann Zamudio

Check out Ann’s documentary Don’t Talk About the Baby and share your voice!